Given the ever-increasing cost of health care in the U.S., it is not surprising that the medical device market is expected to exceed $200 billion within the next two years. As the medical device industry expands into new areas such as robotics, AI, nanotechnology, and wearables, companies need to continue to diligently protect their new technology. Collaboration—with universities, other traditional, industry players, or newcomers—often drives innovation, however ownership rights may become murky. Similarly, the use of existing technology, like wireless communication protocols and LED screens, creates the potential scenario of exposing a traditional medical device company to unexpected licensing demands.
One focus of the presentation will be addressing how to avoid pitfalls when entering into various contractual relationships with other entities. This includes issues that may arise with joint venture arrangements, acquisition of small companies or from solo inventors, and non-disclosure arrangements with possible partners or acquirers. While these negotiations usually represent an excellent opportunity to grow the company and expand its innovation, it is imperative that the proper protections are in place and that each party’s role is clearly defined. We will have in-house counsel represented, who have dealt with just these issues, and will also examine prior case studies to see how these issues may be litigated if they are not proactively avoided.
Another area of focus will be recent developments in patent law. One topic will be how the scope of what is protectable by a patent has changed, and how that impacts computer-based, medical device inventions. Another topic will be the change to the US patent laws that occurred as part of the America Invents Act, under which the U.S. moved from a “first-to-invent” to a “first-to-file” system. We will explore how that has created tension for companies who want to make sure to file their patent applications as early as they can, but also ensure that they have done enough work so that their patent specifications afford them the ability to broadly protect their technology.
Lastly, the discussion will address other ways for companies to protect their innovations, including by trade secret protection, non-disclosure agreements, and copyright. Real-world examples will illustrate common problems, and we will discuss practical implementation of such intellectual property policies.